Intersectionality in the formation of masculinities

Marginalized masculinity highlights the linkage to other systems of oppression. As mentioned in the last text, in the 8th chapter of her book "Masculinities" Connell deals in detail with different processes of formation and shaping of masculinities. In doing so, masculinity and femininity are understood as gender projects that are not rigid but are in an ongoing interaction with their emergence, historical contexts, and environments. The analysis is primarily concerned with industrialized countries.

Trade unionism and masculinity

The trade union movement is often held in high esteem in leftist circles. However, according to Connell, its emergence and persistence are also related to the removal of women from positions of power.

Increasing industrialization in Western nations widely transformed rural populations into an urban and industrial working class. The new form of labor established a clear separation between wage labor and the household. The comparatively well-paid industrial wages created a financial imbalance in the household and thus a power imbalance.

Interacting with these changes, "fit" masculinities emerged that were defined by:
- their ability to earn money,
- their manual skills,
- their patriarchal position in the family, and their
- militant solidarity with colleagues.

Reality, however, was at odds with these notions of masculinity. Women made up a large proportion of workers in the textile industry, and also worked in blast furnaces, coal mines, and printing plants. In addition, they were significantly involved in labor struggles. Thus, to implement and further establish working-class masculinity, the removal of women from heavy industry was essential. It also promoted the bourgeois ideology of the time of the separation of spheres and the strategy of a family income for men.

"The trade union movement can be seen as the institutionalization of this kind of masculinity."¹

Thus, the emergence of the trade union movement is directly related to the disempowerment of women. Because of the persistence of working class masculinities, the history of their emergence, and related dynamics, unions are to be understood as masculine institutions in terms of Connell's theory.

Racism and masculinity

Current white supremacy is also related to the racist construction of black masculinity. The (supposed) economic logic led to strong population movements of labor between continents (enslavement and forced labor or "voluntary" emigration).

The legacy of these population movements was a racial hierarchy that was strongly related to the construction of masculinity. The construction of Black masculinity offers a vivid example. This was usually seen as a sexual and social threat to the dominant white culture.² This was used to justify a gender ideology that led to political racism and harsh surveillance measures in various states (USA, France, South Africa, ...).

Thus, the racist construction of masculinity reinforced a patriarchal gender ideology and further racism in the societies of industrialized nations.

"[We] see [...] a world shaped by European global empires, complex gender relations in which dominant, subordinated and marginalized masculinities constantly interact with each other, thus changing the conditions of existence of each form of masculinity and transforming themselves in the process."¹

The current situation

According to Connell, in order to understand how masculinities stand globally today, one realization is fundamental. The Western gender order is being exported further and further into the colonized and capitalized world.

As a result, the diversity of gender orders around the world is being replaced by a global gender order. In this, Western gender arrangements are in turn hegemonic and the main beneficiaries of this world order are, as a collective, the men of the industrialized nations. This becomes visible through the tremendous increase in power, both over natural resources and over other peoples.

This enormous increase in the actual power of men in the industrialized nations has resulted in more points of attack on the gender order. Among other things, significantly increased attacks by feminism on male privilege in rich countries provided a loss of legitimacy for patriarchy. Examples include the MeToo movement, debates over gender language, and the implementation of same-sex marriage. Mass media enabled global dissemination, whereupon"'Western' feminism [has since] entered into a multifaceted and fraught dialogue with feminism in the developing world, for example, about the legacy of colonialism and racism."¹

Equally profound, according to Connell, is the challenge to hegemonic heterosexuality by the gay and lesbian movement. Here, there was not as much proliferation, which is why most heterosexual men are able to repress this challenge and dismiss it as a minority issue that does not affect them. The gender order has been given a kind of permanent alternative through the stabilization of "gay communities," which, while a loyal opposition, diminishes how much hegemonic heterosexuality can dominate the imagination.

"Men in the leading industrialized nations find themselves in a paradoxical situation, historically speaking. Like no class of humanity before, they have in their hands the power to shape the future, accumulated resources, scientific and social technologies. And at the same time, feminism, sexual liberation movements, and utopian thinking have created more futures than ever before. But the category of "men" in rich nations is not a group that could deliberate and decide on a new historical perspective. As we have noted, the differences within this category are wide-ranging. But insofar as these men share a common interest, as a result of the inequitable distribution of resources in the world, as well as within wealthy nations, they will resist utopian change and defend the status quo."

Thus, the men of the leading industrialized nations will not initiate the changes necessary to abolish systems of oppression. That's why it's essential that decision-making positions and power be redistributed.

➡️Further reading
¹R W. Connell: Masculinities. Springer VS, 2015: 4th German Edition. The original version can be found here:
²Robert Staples: Black Masculinity: The Black Male’s Role in American Society. Black Scholar Pr (1. Februar 1982).